For the first time in 21 years, Australian golf club membership numbers have shown an increase in the past year, representing some 30,000 new members
The just released 2019 Golf Australia Participation Report has revealed a 0.05 per cent increase, the first of its kind since 1998.
The encouraging figures come on top of at least anecdotal evidence of a surge in golf participation since the Covid-19 pandemic, with golf being seen as a healthy an allowable outdoor activity.
Golf Australia chairman Andrew Newbold acknowledged the official membership increase as a “fantastic result”. The figure was just one of several promising numbers in the report, compiled annually by Golf Business Advisory Services.
“We continue to see a rise in social club membership, but we couldn’t be more pleased that clubs in Queensland (0.9 per cent rise) and South Australia (0.8 per cent rise) really helped drive us to a membership number we haven’t seen this century,” Newbold said.
“Obviously there’s a churn factor we’d love to address for those who are no longer members, but we were very enthused to see almost 30,000 new members around the country.
“Importantly for club health broadly, more than half (52 per cent) of those new members were aged under 50, a figure that compares well to the 28 per cent in that category overall.”
Among other key positives, there has been a 33 per cent surge in the number of 9-hole competition rounds through “Play 9”, a combined initiative of Golf Australia and the R&A.
There was also a 2.7 per cent increase in junior club membership, the first increase in junior membership for more than 10 years.
“The increase in junior club membership is also very positive and it is pleasing to see GA’s investment in the MyGolf program bearing fruit at grass-roots level,” Golf Australia’s golf development general manager David Gallichio said.
Another pleasing result also came with a timely reminder to those in the golf industry.
Competition rounds spiked by two per cent to 10.534 million and the overall participation rate rose 2.5 per cent.
But Gallichio said these results were tempered by a 14 per cent drop in the number of total golf participants.
“This reflects a broader trend seen in the majority of organised sport around the country,” he said.
“But it’s important data to consider when we’re helping clubs shape their offerings, particularly around attracting women to golf.
“Female golf participation market share has increased three points to 21 per cent in the past three years, which is a start, but not nearly enough to meet our goals and what’s best for the long-term health of the sport.
“These factors really stress the importance of understanding the needs of our potential and future customers in retaining them within the sport, and also demonstrate that our Vision 2025 plans are starting to bear fruit.”